Times Crossword 23999

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 16.31

The bottom half of this went in relatively painlessly but I was left with 7 or 8 empty spaces at the top in two unconnected groups which took a lot longer to crack. Solving it and writing the blog have happily taken precisely the 1 hr and 50 minutes between the puzzle coming online and the Olympics starting, so I’m off for my nightly fix.

  LAMENT(ations). It was pretty clear how this was going to work but my biblical knowledge is suitably lamentable and it took me a while to get to this (via DEUTER, REVEL and what I think is actually the only other legitimate 6-letter half-a-bible-book word, ECCLES).
  MASTHEAD – a double meaning that also took me a long time to work out, falling into the trap of assuming “furthest from the sea” meant inland rather than up. A masthead is the printed name of a newspaper and – well, the head of a mast.
  COUPE,R,IN – I play the piano very badly but managed to pick up the names of lots of composers along the way, so this one was familiar. The Couperin family were a musical dynasty of the Baroque era.
  C(A LL)OW – I thought this was a bit unwieldy.
  ASTI, being the heart of feASTIng
  M, ICE – when the cat’s away, the mice play, so the definition is “In Tom’s absence, players”. I feared the worst when I got both crossing letters to leave _I_E – not an encouraging sight when you have no idea how the clue works. I still expected the definition to be “reserve” at that point. But somehow it flipped round the right way in my head just in time to avoid a catastrophe..
  MYSTERY MAN (symmetry + an)*
  SOUL (sounds like “sole”)
  UNSCHOOLED – (should once) * – not words that scream out “I am an anagram” but luckily I spotted right away that they were.
  GEM, IN, I – The Gemini space programme was the predecessor of Project Apollo.
  RAGS,TONE – I didn’t know this stone but the wordplay was pretty unambiguous.
  WITHDRAW – departing with a draw being a good result for the poorer team (for example, England in their game v Czech Rep on Wednesday…)
  BYE-BYE – I think this would have been quite easy even for non cricket-lovers.
  SUCKER PUNCH – a quick, surprise punch.
  HAL(F)YARD – half a yard being eighteen inches. A halyard is a rope for lowering a sail or flag. I began to wonder if there was a kind of nautical theme going on in this corner, with the halyard hanging down from the masthead, and right next to it…
  …A LO(F)T, which has a nautical meaning of “up the mast”. At this point I suspected the entire puzzle of being laced with ship parts but couldn’t find anything more apart from 24 down, which can be a kind of propeller.
  L(E C)OR, BUSIER – with LOR(d) being “peer shortly” and EC = “city” (City of London postal district). Le Corbusier was a Swiss-born architect who seems to have turned his hand to quite a few other things as well.
  TALLIS, H, a reference to the composer Thomas Tallis.
  S(COT)TIE – STIE(s) being stalls, shortened
  (n)OBEL, I – the definition is “print marks”. An obelus is a dagger-sign used in printing.
  S,CREW – this screw was a kind of water pump invented by Archimedes.
  GAB, as in “the gift of the gab” – BAG reversed.


21 comments on “Times Crossword 23999”

  1. I was doing very well with this but after half an hour I still had 7 or 8 incomplete words scattered throughout the puzzle and these took me another 30 minutes to finish off having eventually resorted to a thesaurus for some new ideas.

    Last in were LAMENT, MICE (a brilliant clue and my COD)and finally SCOTTIE (although I had been toying with this answer since about 10 minutes in, I just couldn’t see how to justify it so I kept looking for a better alternative).

    I can’t make up my mind whether 10 is “unwieldy” as Sabine has said, or very clever. At this moment I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.

    I have a query at 6. How does “Using straw” = SUCKER. I’d have thought it clued SUCKING. A sucker might be a pesron using a straw but that’s not what’s clued, or is it?

    I wondered about “heading for heaven” at 8 as something that’s aloft could be falling to earth, but then something that’s heading for heaven must be aloft so I suppose it’s fair enough. A question mark or “perhaps” or maybe” might have helped, but I guess it’s not the compiler’s job to be helpful. And speaking of compilers, are they always anonymous?

    QED rating: 1 or 2, 7 or 8, 7. I’m not feeling very decisive this morning.

  2. The start to mobilise is “m” and reserve can be “ice”, as in a cold reception. Not brilliant, but just about acceptable. Predicated on “when the cat’s away the mice will play”
  3. of Anonymity there. Really like that clue only arrived at with all the connecting letters. Totally misdirected by the comma in 20D and tripped up by 20A as a result. There always a psychological block when down to last clue or two. Unhappy about 6D and 10A in accord with above comments but as ever give what the examiner wants.
  4. A very similar path to Jack with an overall time of about 40 minutes to both solve and understand.

    I don’t get 6D and feel the word “one” has been omitted from the front of the clue and that “blow unexpected” would be better than “unexpectedly”. Accuracy has been sacrificed to improve surface reading. I’ve decided that I also don’t like 10A. “that can be milked” to indicate A-LL contained within COW? Not for me.

    Neither clue is difficult to solve but they are for me unsatisfactory constructions. I’m always interested in clues that can have more than one correct answer and 4D lends itself to ben(t) as well as tor(t)

    1. Not all that bad. “that can be milked for” could mean that the word can have the letters “a-ll” removed to leave “cow”. And the juxtaposition of “cow” and “milk” is an added hint. I agree that 6 dn doesn’t gel.
      1. I think your interpretation would work if the clue read “Immature animal remains after milking a couple of litres”
  5. Head of mobility M + reserve ICE = those who play when the cats away MICE as in the Civil Service now that the MP’s are on their hols
  6. After 37 minutes finally decided that I couldn’t think of any alternatives to lament and scottie and entered them without certainty.
  7. Ran out of steam on this one after thirty minutes, with six clues unsolved. I wasn’t anywhere near the setter’s wavelength. I don’t think I’d have got COUPERIN if I’d stared at it till Tuesday; I was misinterpreting the wordplay, and didn’t know the composer. I also got it into my head that 1ac must be ‘absent’, and spent a long while trying to justify it, to no avail. The 20s, SOCK and SCOTTIE, eluded me, too.

    I’ll give a vote to MASTHEAD as COD for some lateral (well, vertical) thinking in ‘furthest point from the sea’.

  8. Some clue oddities made this a slower solve than it should have been, finishing after about 25 minutes.

    10: This was OK to me. “That can be milked for a couple of litres” is a fairly neat (sorry) way of saying COW contains A-LL.
    23: Clever clue, I thought, but – and I know there’s a question mark to help justify it – “hasn’t been” just doesn’t gel grammatically.
    6: OK by me. “Using” points to the fact that the wordplay “uses”…
    7: Not keen on the arbitrary selection of the letter to be removed.

    Overall, extremely enjoyable, the work of a setter who knows how to latch onto devious definitions.

    Q-2 E-8 D-6 COD 10A (yes, I liked it that much).

  9. In front of me at the Rose Bowl yesterday (Google it if it’s an unfair reference!), a solver who couldn’t easily fold The Times crossword in the wind — would have been easier with the horizontal fold! You tell ’em, please! Don Manley
    1. Absolutely with you on this Don. For my part, quiet moments at work are an open invitation to engage in a sneaky bit of solving. Should the (somewhat predictable) situation arise, far easier to conceal a folded newspaper than one that has to take up half my desk.

      There are occasions when a bit of tradition is exactly what we need; landscape presentation, bottom of back page – exactly where a crossword belongs if you ask me.

  10. It was much easier to do the crossword on a cramped train when it was in the previous position. Can we start a petition or something?

    Steve W

  11. A lot of clues had me pondering , lament,couperin (unknown name), halyard, gab and then scottie. Sock was last to go in and even then I would have added another 5 minutes to work out the wordplay.10a was a headscratcher as well and my COD . Enjoyable
    20.33 today.
    (by the way I also thought that the does/rut clue yesterday was brilliant)
  12. Sorry for the late post, but I found this tough, and at the end I still hadn’t solved 9A. Came here to see Couperin, confess I never heard of him, so there was no chance there. Got everything else but had to return to it an 3 separate occasions during the day, so I can’t really estimate how long it took, other than a good bit more than usual. Have a great weekend, regards. My COD: withdraw.
  13. Busy yesterday so tackled while catching up with some Olympic diving this morning. Just under 22 mins with 20A/D and 26 the last group to be solved. 5/7 were also slow, having swtruggled to get LANYARD out of my head. Enjoyed 2D when I got it.
  14. (A late comment as I’ve just done this as the last of this week’s six done at a single sitting.) 13:53 for me, but I was beginning to feel a bit tired at the end particularly after this Saturday’s puzzle, which I did first, and Wednesday’s, which I found tough as well – in fact I was glad to get through without making any mistakes. Lots of very fine clues, particularly 5A, 11A, 14A and 2D, from which I’ll choose 14A as my COD. All in all, most enjoyable.

  15. Like Sabine perhaps I had piano lessons when I was young – and therefore was aware of Couperin at 9a having played some of his compositions – although probably not to his satisfaction. In later life, as an incentive to join a choir, I was invited to take part in a “from scratch” performance of Thomas Tallis’s “Spem in Alium” – a piece for 8 choirs of 5 voices each. This was such an overwhelming experience – I can’t sight read music for singing any better than I can for the piano – that I did not join that choir. But Tallis-h at 19d was a write-in!

    There are 4 “easies” left out here:

    11a Anger badly managed, in general (2,3,5)
    BY AND LARGE. (Anger badly)*.

    15a Exhausted, given ovation returning to pavilion? (7,3)
    CLAPPED OUT. More usually used to describe a car that has done too many miles?

    3d Stretch of river – searches for gold in it (7)

    16d Branch, not the whole fighting force (3)
    ARM (Y)

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